I have seen some scenarios where someone says a sentence like, "I'm sorry" to some of his/her co-workers and then after three or four seconds he/she says, "That you guys are idiots".
For a slightly differnent setting, let's just say that the person who spoke was in the beginning going to really only say "I'm sorry", but then after a few seconds re-decided to add the second utterance.

Is the utterance "That you guys are idiots" part of the utterance "I'm sorry", or are they both separate sentences because of the three or four seconds in between the two utterances?

  • 1
    Ar you asking how "sentence" is defined as contrasted with "utterance"? We just had that question and didn't get anywhere with it.
    – user6726
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 20:49
  • I am asking if the two utterances that were said in my question would be in the same sentence.
    – GFD1998
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 20:50
  • 1
    How have you defined sentence?
    – user6726
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 20:56
  • A sentence is a combination of words that expresses a subject and a verb.
    – GFD1998
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 20:59
  • 1
    It's a joke. It's ambiguous. It sounds like "I'm sorry" is a complete phrase. Then the relative clause follows. Hilarity ensues. That's about it.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 2:53

2 Answers 2


It is ambiguous. Spoken language is a lot looser than well formed written sentences thus there is no way for us to even tentatively say yay or nay. Intonation, stress, non-verbal sings would point in a direction, but even then, there is no way to ascertain the speakers intentions.

Consider the following scenarios. Jack: My mother passed away yesterday. Jill: I'm sorry ... Jill: That you guys are idiots ... is an understatement.


Jill: I'm sorry ... Jill: That you guys are idiots ... but it is something I'll need to learn to live with.

Final thought on this: Interpreting isolated utterances does not make much sense from a linguistic point of view. Interpreting their written transcription makes even less sense. For a successful attempt, you need context, and very often more than just the transcription of the words.

  • What is "transcription of words"?
    – GFD1998
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 15:46
  • What you actually would have heard in the real life situation would have been: "aɪm ˈsɒri ... ðæt juː gaɪz ɑːr ˈɪdɪəts ... bʌt ɪt ɪz ˈsʌmθɪŋ aɪl niːd tuː lɜːn tuː lɪv wɪð" which you transcribed into "I'm sorry ... That you guys are idiots ... but it is something I'll need to learn to live with." for convenience. Though I admit it is usually done the other way around when you phonetically transcribe written text. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 19:34

It's not part of the same sentence, and you can tell that by the intonation of a spoken version. If it's all one sentence, we get an intonation like

I'm 2sorry that you 3guys are 1idiots.  

where I've written the highest pitch as "1", next highest as "2", and so on. If a period of silence after "sorry" were simply an inserted hiatus, not affecting the syntactic structure, it ought not to affect the intonation:

?? I'm 2sorry ... that you 3guys are 1idiots.  

But instead, a more natural pronunciation is with a low level pitch throughout the second part:

I'm 1sorry ... That you 4guys are 4idiots.  

This is the intonation we find in anaphoric constructions, where the latter part said in a low constant pitch refers back to what was said previously.

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